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Located 25 kilometers northwest of PotosĂ­, a delightful set of hot springs have put Tarapaya on the traveler map. The town itself is little more than a small collection of clay buildings and a military training camp, but the hot springs make for a lovely half-day trip out of the city. The small, round lake, known as El Ojo del Inca (The Inca's Eye), as well as the attached cement pool, are heated by a natural hot spring which can be seen bubbling in the center of the lake. It is known for its agreeable temperature, 30Âş C (85Âş F). This may seem a bit cool for a hot spring, but upon reaching the water after the uphill trek, you'll probably be in the mood for something refreshing, rather than scalding. The baths are also famed due to alleged curative minerals, and legend has it that the great Inca Huayna Capac used to venture all the way from Cusco just for a soak.


El Ojo del Inca can be reached in just a half hour by camion, and a bit quicker by taxi. The local buses leave around every half hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Avenida Universidad, in the lot of a small stalled market just down the hill from the bus station ($0.60 /4 Bs. one-way, 30 minutes). Ask the bus driver to let you off at the small bridge just past the military camp and before the public pools. If you miss the bridge, get off at the pools and backtrack a bit. From the bridge, walk up the winding dirt road; you will pass a rusty sign which reads Laguna and small footpaths that can be followed to cut the corners of the road—note that they are unmarked, however, and not much faster. About 400m up, the road will fork and to the left you’ll find three small houses and the laguna as promised. The first of the small houses is inhabited by the caretakers of the hot spring, and is “open” 24 hours. They charge $1.40 (10 Bs.) to swim, and additionally sell small snacks. They also rent out the remaining two houses, claiming to provided beds, sheets, blankets and bathroom (though the showers do not work). There is no phone number or address, so your best bet is to head up to the hot spring with a day pack, some food and possibly a sleeping bag. Surely a peaceful night away, just come prepared!


To return to Potosí, walk down the dirt road and wait for a camion going to the city. If you don’t have luck getting a seat on the bus that way, you may need to get on one heading away from Potosí to the small village of Miraflores ($0.15 / 1 B., 5 minutes). Here you can switch buses and hopefully get a seat. If you’d rather take a quick visit to the springs, taxis usually charge $8, roundtrip, with an hour of waiting time while you swim.



Other places nearby Tarapaya: Around Cochabamba, Parque Nacional Torotoro, Cochabamba, Cordillera de los Frailes, Tarabuco, Sucre, Quillacolo and PotosĂ­.

By Margaret Rode
A self-professed city girl, sassy staff writer Margaret Rode hails from Chicago where she received Bachelor degrees in English Literature and Spanish...
12 Jun 2009

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